Albuquerque International Sunport sees holiday travel spike

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – TSA said agents screened more than 2.5 million travelers for flights across the country the Sunday after Thanksgiving. A spokesperson announced on Twitter, this is the highest checkpoint volume since the start of the pandemic.

A representative of the Albuquerque International Sunport told KOB it accommodated more than 140,000 passengers between Nov. 19 and Nov. 28. That’s a 10% increase from last year (131,830), and more than 70% higher than numbers in 2020 (39,022).

“We’re only 4% below 2019 numbers (153,226),” Sunport spokesperson Jonathan Small said. “So it’s been very encouraging to see passenger levels continue to get closer to pre-pandemic levels.”

Small added that those numbers could be even higher if airlines make all their seats available again. Some are still scaling back on full flights for social distancing.

“Our load factors are really strong,” he said. “So there’s a good chance that if the airlines were able to provide additional capacity, we would most likely be surpassing those pre pandemic, pre pandemic numbers.”

But a promising increase in passenger volume does not come without challenges.

“We did have one day in which our parking lots were at capacity,” Small said. “It’s always best to arrive just a little bit earlier during those really heavy travel periods, just to make sure you can find parking. And, as a reminder, there are several offsite parking lots around the Sunport that can be used as well.”

Finding a parking spot is not the only reason airport officials recommend showing up two hours before a flight. Small said security checkpoint lines can get long during the holidays, but that did not cause any serious issues during Thanksgiving.

“Even during the really heavy travel periods, [TSA agents] process people very efficiently,” he said. “So the average wait time at the checkpoint was only 15 minutes.”

Small also recommends staying in touch with your airline for the most up to date information.

Even though the Sunport does not yet have detailed projections for Christmas travel numbers, Small did say they are expecting another travel surge in December.